Overview of the year

Museum Affairs

Outline of the sector

The Museum Affairs sector is responsible for managing, exhibiting and providing access to the valuable, unique collections of the VGM and TMC. This sector organises captivating exhibitions, manages, preserves and enhances the museum collection, arranges loan processes, plans educational projects and conducts first-rate scientific research.

The Museum Affairs sector comprises the departments of Collections & Research, Collection Management & Restoration, Collection Information, Education & Interpretation, the Registrar’s Office and the Exhibitions Team, as well as TMC in The Hague.

Van Gogh Museum | Photograph: Jan-Kees Steenman Van Gogh Museum | Photograph: Jan-Kees Steenman


The VGM complements the presentation of its permanent collection with a varied programme of temporary exhibitions. The museum organises two major exhibitions in the Exhibition Wing every year, in addition to a more modest summer presentation. The Rietveld Building hosts smaller exhibitions featuring work by contemporary artists.

Van Gogh & Japan

23 March – 24 June 2018

The exhibition Van Gogh & Japan, which first went on display at three Japanese museums, used some 60 of Van Gogh’s paintings and drawings alongside a varied selection of Japanese prints to reveal the extent of Van Gogh’s admiration for Japanese art and how it dramatically changed his own work. Unique loans from museums and private collections all around the world travelled to Amsterdam to feature in the exhibition, including Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889, The Courtauld Gallery, London). Van Gogh & Japan was a resounding success, attracting more than 430,000 visitors. Visitors were invited to book their ticket online in advance, which meant we could ensure optimal visitor distribution.

The exhibition was accompanied by a richly-illustrated catalogue with contributions from VGM curators and experts in the field. Vincent van Gogh’s collection of Japanese prints was the subject of a separate publication, which analysed the nature of the collection, described how it was built up and reconstructed its original composition. The prints were also digitised, offering visitors online access to this important museum sub-collection. On 6 and 7 June 2018, the VGM organised an international symposium exploring the theme of Van Gogh & Japan. The symposium also focused on Japonism and primitivism.

Van Gogh & Japan | Photograph: Jan-Kees Steenman Van Gogh & Japan | Photograph: Jan-Kees Steenman

His Majesty the King with Curator Nienke Bakker | Photograph: Jan-Kees Steenman His Majesty the King with Curator Nienke Bakker | Photograph: Jan-Kees Steenman

Gauguin & Laval in Martinique

5 October 2018 – 13 January 2019

Gauguin & Laval in Martinique was the first ever exhibition to unite almost all of the works that artist friends Paul Gauguin and Charles Laval made in Martinique. The exhibition offered the VGM the opportunity to join visitors in reflecting on topical themes such as colonialism, language, origin and representation, and the museum seized the opportunity to learn about inclusive interpretation. The exhibition attracted more than 180,000 visitors.

The side programming, which also allowed the museum to enter into discussion with the public, was a resounding success. The Verkeerd verbonden (‘Misconnected’) element of the programme, part of the Van Gogh Connects learning pathway, was developed in co-creation with a think tank of 24 young adults and resulted in three sold-out discussion afternoons with young adults with a migrant background.

In the second half of 2018, the museum hosted an expert meeting focusing on the research and the exhibition. The results of this meeting will be published in 2021 in the Van Gogh Museum Studies series.


Gauguin & Laval in Martinique | Photograph: Mike Bink Gauguin & Laval in Martinique | Photograph: Mike Bink

‘Misconnected’ | Photograph: Randy Da-Costa ‘Misconnected’ | Photograph: Randy Da-Costa

Van Gogh Dreams

27 July 2018 – 13 January 2019

The summer presentation Van Gogh Dreams: A journey through his mind was a narrative installation exploring Van Gogh’s inner life. Light, colour and audio combined to create a multisensory experience based on Van Gogh’s turbulent period in Arles in the South of France. This was the first time that the museum relayed Van Gogh’s story without displaying artworks. The presentation attracted almost 200,000 visitors in 2018 and will return in the summer of 2019.

Van Gogh Dreams | Photograph: Maartje Strijbis Van Gogh Dreams | Photograph: Maartje Strijbis

Van Gogh Dreams | Photograph: Maartje Strijbis Van Gogh Dreams | Photograph: Maartje Strijbis

Van Gogh inspires: John Chamberlain

The smaller exhibition Van Gogh inspires: John Chamberlain went on display in the Rietveld Building, featuring five sculptures by American artist John Chamberlain. Chamberlain greatly admired Vincent van Gogh’s work and was inspired by it, primarily by Van Gogh’s use of colour and expressive brushstrokes.

Van Gogh inspires: John Chamberlain | Photograph: Michael Floor Van Gogh inspires: John Chamberlain | Photograph: Michael Floor

Research and Conservation


Please refer to the appendices for a complete list of current research projects.

Research Grant

The Van Gogh Museum Research Grant enables recently graduated art historians to conduct research into a subject linked to the museum collection. The 2018 grant has been awarded to Fiona Saint-Davis. She will use the grant from the VGM to conduct further research into the brothel drawings of Emile Bernard, a contemporary of Vincent van Gogh.


Conservation treatment was conducted on several works in 2018, and intriguing non-destructive research was conducted ahead of treatments. Eugène Delacroix’s oil sketch Apollo Slays Python (1850) underwent extensive conservation treatment. In preparation for the conservation of View of the Sea at Scheveningen and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen, the two Van Gogh paintings recovered in 2016, detailed technical research was conducted on the works. View of the Sea at Scheveningen was damaged during the theft, and following research into the work, a 3D-printed mould was produced to fill a lacuna in the painting.

For the complete list of conserved works, please see the appendices.

Removing the varnish | Photograph: VGM Conservation Studio Removing the varnish | Photograph: VGM Conservation Studio

Tightening the lining canvas onto which the paper was adhered | Photograph: VGM Conservation Studio Tightening the lining canvas onto which the paper was adhered | Photograph: VGM Conservation Studio


Unravel Van Gogh

With the new Unravel Van Gogh app, we are building on the success of Touch Van Gogh. Using intuitive touch technology, this app reveals how Van Gogh worked and how the VGM, in its role as a knowledge institute, preserves his work for future generations. This new version of the app is suitable for use on various platforms and browsers, in the museum, online and in outreach projects such as the Meet Vincent van Gogh Experience.

Van Gogh Goes to School

As part of its drive to introduce Van Gogh to every child in the Netherlands, the VGM offers education at the museum, as well as online with digiboard lessons for all levels of primary and secondary education. In 2018, trained teachers gave a total of 132 lessons at schools in deprived neighbourhoods in the Van Gogh Goes to School programme. More than 66,000 pupils visited the museum as part of a school activity. The percentage of Dutch schools visiting the VGM is lagging; the majority of the students visiting the museum attend secondary/higher professional (havo) and pre-university (vwo) institutions. In light of the fact that 60% of Dutch schoolchildren attend lower secondary professional (vmbo) schools, and a large proportion of these children are less commonly introduced to culture at home, we are now working to better cater to this educational segment. We have also launched a marketing campaign to increase awareness of our educational resources amongst schools.

Van Gogh Connects

Van Gogh Connects is a four-year learning pathway (2017-2021) in which the VGM collaborates with Fonds 21 to explore how it can gain relevance to young Amsterdam residents with a migrant background. The museum is conducting 40 pilots together with a think tank of 24 young adults from the target group, and the Impact Center Erasmus (Erasmus University Rotterdam) is researching the social impact. 15 pilots have now been completed, in which we focused on the four Ps of the Cultural Diversity Code: programme, public, personnel and partners. Based on the findings, this programme will be further developed and the learning pathway for lower secondary professional (vmbo) education will be improved. The pilots that were co-programmed by partners during the Vincent on Friday evenings were a success, and will be continued in 2019. The exemplary position of Van Gogh Connects on the (inter)national stage is reflected in its inclusion in the Amsterdam Arts Council 2019 Recommendations, in its nomination for the &Award 2018 (Cultural & Creative Inclusivity) and in the high level of interest from the field.

Participants of Van Gogh Meets | Photograph: Brenda Roos Participants of Van Gogh Meets | Photograph: Brenda Roos

Van Gogh Meets

The VGM is keen to make a difference in an aging world. Specially trained instructors held a total of 49 workshops on location for vulnerable elderly people. Responding to requests from elderly visitors, we launched Van Gogh Meets: museum visits with activities and extra guidance (70+) at the museum in 2018. In light of the fact that 89% of the participants were (very) satisfied, we will continue these events in 2019 and share our experiences with other museums.

Olive Groves expert meeting

To kick off a new research project into olive groves in the work of Van Gogh, a special expert meeting was held at the VGM and Kröller-Müller Museum conservation studios in November 2018. VGM conservators introduced extensive technical research conducted on the olive grove paintings in the VGM collection.


The VGM strives to make Van Gogh accessible to as many people as possible. In order to raise awareness of accessibility within the museum, an internal programme has been launched allowing all members of staff to draw on their own expertise to contribute to a more accessible VGM. With Feeling Van Gogh, an interactive programme for blind and partially-sighted visitors, and sign language guided tours, we cater to visitors with a visual impairment.


In 2018, VGM staff were invited to complete a diversity survey in order to assess diversity and inclusivity within the organisation. Initial analysis has revealed that staff are favourable to a more inclusive VGM, but do not believe that the organisation needs to be a reflection of society. Continued efforts are therefore required to further raise internal awareness in order to avoid unconscious prejudices and exclusion. The new HR memorandum ‘Inclusive Employment’ focuses on three characteristics of diversity: age, migration background and educational level. The Van Gogh Connects learning pathway helps staff in all levels of the organisation – from operational to the Supervisory Board – to become more aware of their unconscious bias, and inclusivity becomes a subject that can be more readily discussed.


Linked in part to the relocation of the museum’s offices, a sweeping programme of digitisation has been launched. In the initial phase of the digitisation process, more than 1 million paper pages, photographs, slides and Ektachromes were digitised in batches.

Please refer to the appendices for the statistics relating to digitisation.

Multimedia guide

In 2018, a redesign of the multimedia guide was launched in order to improve usability. There is continued investment in the 11-language multimedia guide that is available for the permanent collection and all temporary exhibitions, and is used by 30.9% of visitors.

Acquisitions and outgoing loans


In 2018, the museum once again succeeded in adding more unique works to its collection. The most notable acquisitions include the painting Motherhood (Vierge au baiser) (1896-1897) by Maurice Denis, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s painted drawing In Saint-Lazare (A Saint-Lazare) (1886), and a group of no fewer than 91 prints by Camille Pissarro. The museum also received several gifts: a fan-shaped watercolour drawing by Pierre Bonnard, a drawing by Jean-François Millet and a group of prints by Paul Gachet.

The collection was also temporarily expanded thanks to the loan of two Van Gogh paintings. Following the Van Gogh & Japan exhibition, Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889) and La Crau with Peach Trees in Blossom (1889) from The Courtauld Gallery remained at the Van Gogh Museum whilst renovations were carried out at the London museum. The works went on display in the context of our permanent collection.

For the complete list of acquisitions, please see the appendices Acquisitions and Gifts.

Outgoing loans

The presentation of works in other countries is part of our mission to make the museum’s collection accessible. In 2018, the VGM collaborated with institutions including The National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto for the exhibition Van Gogh & Japan. The VGM also loaned out works in 2018, including for the exhibition John Russell, Australia’s French Impressionist at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney (21 July to 11 November 2018) and to the Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge (Massachusetts, USA) from 23 March to 10 July 2018.

For the complete list of loans, please see the appendices Overview of outgoing loans, Long-term loans to the VGM and Long-term loans to other museums.